On the weekend of November 8th – 10th, Lassonde’s BEST Program (Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology) hosted its inaugural Startup Experience Weekend sponsored by Rogers and KPM Power. 200 High-School, College, and University students from across Ontario experienced an intensive 36-hour experiential learning opportunity, where they got the chance to use Design Thinking to identify and solve one of the World’s Grand Challenges.
On Friday night, participants were presented with some of the world’s grand challenges, such as Clean Water and Air, Access to Education, Food Security,
Affordable Healthcare and Mental Health spent the evening working in groups to develop a “How Might We (HMW)” statement, identifying a problem that was big enough to be meaningful, yet small enough to be addressable. On Saturday, assisted by over 15 mentors, participants were given the choice of which HMW statement they wanted to address and formed teams around working on a problem they were passionate about (and it showed)! Subsequently, they brainstormed alternate solutions, choosing one which they then developed into a compelling business case. On Sunday, again with assistance from mentors, they got the chance to pitch their ideas, to other teams, to student groups, and finally to a team of experienced judges, addressing problems such as mental health, sustainable agriculture, technology-based education in developing countries, and renewable energy.
During this intensive interactive experience, participants had the opportunity to be inspired by role models from the community, high school through The Knowledge Society (Aryan Misra, Stephanie Porfiris, Riya Mehta, and Matthew Ao), University through BEST Lab (Jimmy Chan) and new technology ventures through NEXT Canada (Erich Ko and Pourya Sarmadi). They also had the chance to learn about: Systematic Inventive Thinking, AI, Machine Learning, Design Thinking, Business Models, Storytelling, Virtual Reality, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship in a series of workshops by: Richard Wajs, Alon Eisenstein, Kevin Monte de Ramos, Dr. Karine Rashkovsky, Meredith Drost, Juanita Lee-Garcia, Douglas Kennedy, Mackenzie Derival, and Marguerite Mcleod-Fleming.
The final day led to the selection of the BEST teams 1st Place: Happify (Reem Aleithan, Paul Charles Owe, Caleb Kim, Jaleel Sayal), 2nd Place: VERT (Allen Kaplan, Kourosh Toghrol, Denis Karasik, Christian Augustyn) and 3rd Place: AgriLife.ai (how to reduce the harmful artificial impact on the environment for the cultivation of agriculture to prevent pollution and environmental destruction) (Pragieth Suresh, Annika Fotr, Ishan Chenthooran, Aarnav Sachidanandan, Nikita Lezgishvili).
While the first two teams were primarily Lassonde students, the third place team was a group of High-School students who work with our partner SV Robotics (founded by Mayuran Ganesathas, a Lassonde undergraduate student). The Winner of People’s Choice Award was also high school students from SV Robotics: “Team Juice” who envisioned bringing smart home technology one step further to help humankind save on not just energy, but also hydro bills. We were so happy with the BEST Startup Experience Weekend, which helped participants find their passion and realize the profound impact they might have on society.
The team showed us how they plan to help students achieve their full potential and handle stress-induced mental health concerns through an intuitive application that acts as a dashboard of students’ school, work and social needs, so that students can organize their lives and achieve better mental health.